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Shannon Elizabeth CRAWLEY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Jealousy - Love triangle
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 4, 2009
Date of arrest: 5 days after
Date of birth: June 12, 1979
Victim profile: Denita Monique Smith, 25 (her romantic rival)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Durham, Durham County, North Carolina, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 22, 2013
photo gallery

Crawley convicted in killing, gets life

By Jesse James DeConto -

February 23, 2010

DURHAM — In a courthouse corridor swirling with television cameras, one family celebrated justice for its dead daughter. Another wept and cursed, helpless to rescue its daughter from life in prison.

The man in the middle of a deadly love triangle was nowhere to be found.

"Jermeir Stroud caused a perfect storm to happen and walked away from it," said Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens, after a 12-member jury found Stroud's former mistress, Shannon Crawley, guilty of killing his fiancee, Denita Smith.

As the prosecution told the story, and as jurors apparently believed it, Crawley tried over and over to frame Stroud for the murder of Smith, a graduate student at N.C. Central University, in January 2007.

Four months after the murder, police say, Crawley concocted a story in which Stroud forced her to Durham then left her in her Ford Explorer as he climbed to the second floor of Smith's apartment building, argued with her, shot her in the back of the head, ran back to the vehicle, shoved his handgun into his waistband, then hid in the back seat as she drove away.

A year later, authorities say, Crawley recorded fake telephone conversations and tried to pass them off as Stroud confessing to her. When that didn't convince investigators, Crawley falsely accused Stroud of raping her in Charlotte a year and a half after the murder.

Blaming Stroud

In an emotional interview outside the courtroom Monday, Crawley's father again pointed the finger at the man who patrols the streets of Greensboro as a police officer.

"If it's the last thing I ever do, I will prove that he is the one who committed this murder," said Keith Crawley, who with his wife sat for two weeks behind their daughter in a courtroom filled with loved ones seeking justice for Smith.

Hands shot up in jubilation when Stephens announced the verdict, and heads nodded when he directed partial blame toward Stroud, who faces no charges in the crime.

After the trial, the Greensboro officer answered his cell phone, the same phone whose records helped to clear him of the rape allegation. He declined to comment on the case.

The trial showed that Stroud made a habit of lying about his relationship with Crawley to Smith, her family and police. But the jury decided the evidence pointed at Crawley, whose own lies struck closer to the heart of the case. She lied about driving to Durham the day before the murder, about a gun she had bought a few months earlier, about a doctor's appointment on the morning of the murder and about whether or not she lived in Smith's apartment complex.

If the jury is right that Stroud's taped confessions were fake, that would be Crawley's biggest lie of all.

Crawley's attorney, Scott Holmes, tried to keep those tapes out of evidence last week, and when the judge allowed them, the defense attorney took them head-on, asking his client why her voice sounds strangely calm and Stroud's voice sounds "more like Michael Jackson." The defendant said her former lawyers had told her to stay calm and try to get Stroud to confess if he called her.

Mistrial rejected

On Monday, Holmes called for a mistrial after the jury asked to listen again to the tapes, even some they hadn't heard when Assistant District Attorney David Saacks had introduced them into evidence last week. Stephens said Crawley had had access to the tapes for the past two years and could have addressed any portion of them during the trial.

In an impromptu news conference after Crawley's sentencing, her family insisted the confessions were real.

"My daughter, who is the perfect victim for someone like Jermeir Stroud, now has to spend the rest of her life in prison," Anne Crawley said.

As the Crawley family mourned the imprisonment of a daughter, sister and mother of two preteens, the Smith family felt a grim sense of justice.

Given the chance to speak to Crawley before the sentence, Sharon Smith did not mince words.

"You took my baby away from me, and she wasn't yours to take," said the victim's mother. "There's no man worth anything like that. Someday, I may forgive you, but I don't. Right now, I hope you rot in hell. You're vile."

Crawley said nothing when Stephens gave her the chance.


Jury finds Crawley guilty

Monday, February 22, 2010

DURHAM (WTVD) -- The jury in the Shannon Crawley trial found her guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 shooting of NCCU graduate student Denita Smith Monday.

The judge immediately sentenced her to life in prison without parole.

Crawley appeared stunned at the verdict. When the judge asked if she wanted to say anything, she sat silent.

Denita Smith's parents both addressed Crawley.

"Because of what Shannon did there is a void. You took her away from me," said Smith's mother. "Someday I may forgive you, but right now I don't and I hope you rot in hell. You're vile. You don't deserve to be a mother."

During the trial, Crawley maintained her innocence, saying she did not shoot Smith and didn't even know the victim.

The jury began deliberating Friday. On Monday, the defense moved for a mistrial after jurors listened to phone calls that weren't introduced into evidence.

According to the defense, that was grounds for a retrial. The judge denied the motion. The jury continued listening to recorded calls Monday that were allegedly made by the victim's fiancé to Crawley.

Also Monday, jury members asked to see several items, including video of Smith's home and pictures of Crawley's vehicle.

Crawley and Smith were allegedly entangled in a love triangle with Greensboro police officer Jermeir Stroud, who also was Smith's fiancé.

Defense lawyers tried to pin the murder on Stroud - who denied involvement.

Crawley testified on her behalf, telling the court she and Stroud were in a relationship, and she was pregnant with his child months before the murder but terminated the pregnancy.

She also testified that on the morning of the murder, she accompanied Stroud to Durham and claimed that's when Stroud shot Smith outsider her apartment.

"If the last thing I ever do, I will prove that he is the one who actually committed that crime," Crawley's father Keith Crawley said. "I won't rest and I won't stop until he's where he belongs, in jail."

Crawley was a 911 operator in Greensboro at the time of the crime.


Romantic rival convicted in NCCU student's slaying

By Erin Hartness -

February 22, 2010

Durham, N.C. — A jury on Monday found a former Guilford Metro 911 dispatcher guilty of killing a North Carolina Central University graduate student more than three years ago.

Jurors deliberated for about seven hours over two days before convicting Shannon Elizabeth Crawley of first-degree murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, shooting death of Denita Monique Smith.

Smith, 25, was shot in the head at Campus Crossing Apartments in Durham and then fell down a stairwell to the sidewalk, where a maintenance man found her body, police said.

"Someday, I may forgive you, but I don't right now," Smith's mother, Sharon Smith, told Crawley during sentencing. "I hope you rot in hell."

Crawley, 28, made no statement before Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens sentenced her to life in prison without parole.

"I was thankful to God for the guilty verdict because I was glad that Denita didn't get murdered twice," her father, Calvain Smith, said after the trial. "In my opinion, the evidence spoke for itself. It couldn't have been no other verdict but a guilty verdict."

Authorities maintained that Crawley stalked Smith in a jealous rage because she had a former relationship with Smith's fiance, Greensboro police officer Jermeir Stroud.

Crawley contended that Stroud stalked her and killed Smith. She said she feared Stroud and did what he said only to protect her children from him.

She testified last week that Stroud drove her to Durham on the morning Smith was killed. He left the SUV for several minutes, she said, and she heard a brief argument followed by a gunshot.

When Stroud ran back to the SUV, she said, he began to back out before jumping into the back seat and ordering her to drive off.

"Now, (it's) my daughter who is the perfect victim," Anne Crawley said after the trial. "The perfect victim for someone like Jermeir Stroud has now been convicted of a murder that he committed."

"If it is the last thing I ever do, I will prove that he is the one that actually committed that crime,” said Crawley's father, Keith Crawley.

Calvain Smith said he remains angry with Stroud, who admitted during the trial that he dated Shannon Crawley and Denita Smith at the same time. Calvain Smith said he doesn't think Stroud did enough to protect his daughter.

"Jermeir Stroud caused a perfect storm to happen and then walked away from it, and that was unfortunate for everyone in this case,” Stephens said as he sentenced Crawley.

Greensboro Police Chief Tim Bellamy said Stroud was never a suspect in Smith's death, adding that he never heard any allegations linking the officer to the case until Crawley's defense brought it up in the trial.

Monday's verdict came after Stephens denied a request by Crawley's attorney for a mistrial.

Jurors asked Monday morning to listen to recordings of what Crawley said were phone conversations between her and Stroud.

In one recording, a man acknowledged in a whisper that he had killed Smith but couldn't go to prison for it.

Defense attorney Scott Holmes complained that jurors were hearing more material on the tapes than they heard during the trial.

"There are substantially new materials that I did not have the opportunity to address in my closing argument," Holmes said. "I think it violates her Sixth Amendment right to counsel to now have stuff played for the jury that was not put in the state’s evidence and published to them. They had the opportunity to publish that entire tape during the case.”

Stephens denied Holmes' motion for a mistrial and allowed jurors to listen to the tapes. The tapes were put into evidence in their entirety, the judge said, and the fact that only portions were played for the jury during the trial was irrelevant.

Durham County Chief Assistant District Attorney David Saacks told Stephens that Holmes had access to all of the recordings "for two years" to prepare for trial.

Holmes said he plans to appeal the verdict.


Shannon Crawley testifies in her own defense

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Shannon Crawley took the stand at her murder trial Thursday.

She is charged with killing North Carolina Central University graduate student Denita Smith three years ago.

During her testimony she continued to point the finger, blaming Smith's fiancé for the shooting.

Crawley and Smith were involved in a love Triangle with Jermeir Stroud. Crawely said Stroud became controlling and erratic before the murder.

Crawley took the witness stand shortly after several witnesses were briefly recalled. Once sworn in, she told the jury how she met Storud, a Greensboro police officer, and how the relationship became sexual.

She also said she had no idea Stroud and Smith were in a relationship.

Crawley said she got pregnant, had an abortion and Stroud proposed to her but she turned him down. She said Stroud started calling her constantly, leaving her mean messages and even tried to chase her around Greensboro.

"We drove through Greensboro for at least 30, 45 minutes," Crawley testified. "He was right behind me, calling me nonstop, beeping the horn, running lights trying to keep up with me. When I got home and came down the driveway, I looked in the mirror and he was right behind my car again."

Crawley maintains Stroud took her to Durham, killed Smith and hid in her car. The prosecution argues Crawley killed Smith out of jealousy.

Jurors also heard a number of recorded phone conversations Crawley claims were between her and Stroud.

Crawley: No, you know I didn't do anything, you need to tell the truth.
Caller: Baby, I ain't going to jail.
Crawley: And I'm supposed to for something I didn't do?
Crawley: You're gonna kill me, too?
Caller: You keep talking, you know I will.

Stroud denies it's him in the calls.



Jury watches Crawley interrogation video

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Jurors in a high-profile Durham murder case heard from the defendant Wednesday.

They watched taped interview footage of Shannon Crawley as she talked to investigators following the murder of Denita Smith.

Crawley is accused of killing Smith, a North Carolina Central University graduate student, three years ago.

Prosecutors believe a love Triangle was the motive and that the women were involved with the same man.

Jurors heard from Crawley through a video of her interrogation by an investigator, which was shot a few months after the murder.

In the taped interview, Crawley said her former boyfriend and Greensboro police officer, Jermeir Stroud, came to her house the day before the murder to talk. She said he was upset about their relationship and asked her to take a ride with him. They ended up going to Durham.

The lead investigator took the stand briefly before playing the video from Crawley's second interview in May 2007. During that interview, she told police she and Stroud went to Durham. The next day she said Stroud threatened her children if she didn't go with him again.

The defendant said she didn't know she was going to Durham and she didn't know the murder victim.

Once they arrived at Campus Crossing Apartments where Smith lived, Crawley said Stroud argued with someone and then she heard a gunshot.

"Seconds later, he was running out passed me from the breezeway," she said during the taped interview. "I never saw him go down the stairs, but he came to the breezeway towards me and shoved the gun down his waist. I asked him what happened. He yelled at me to get in the car."

Crawley's attorney claims Stroud killed his fiancé, but prosecutors say it was a jealous Crawley who pulled the trigger.



Suspect in NCCU student's death says she feared for her children

By Erin Hartness -

February 17, 2010

Durham, N.C. — The woman accused of killing a North Carolina Central University graduate student more than three years ago told police that her former boyfriend pulled the trigger and threatened her children if she didn't accompany him.

Prosecutors played a videotape of a May 2007 police interview of Shannon Elizabeth Crawley as they wrapped up their case against her.

Crawley, 28, of Greensboro, is charged with murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, death of Denita Monique Smith.

The defense is expected to start presenting its case Thursday.

Smith, 25, was shot once in the back of the head and fell down a stairwell at Campus Crossing Apartments in Durham, police said. A maintenance man found her body on a sidewalk.

As the trial began last week, Crawley's attorney said Smith's fiance, Jermeir Stroud, was the killer, calling him manipulative and controlling and saying Crawley followed him out of fear.

Stroud, a Greensboro police officer, testified that he dated both women at the same time but broke up with Crawley shortly after she became pregnant and had an abortion. Smith never knew about his other relationship, but Crawley did, he said.

Prosecutors have argued that Crawley stalked Smith in a jealous rage because she had a previous relationship with Stroud.

During her police interview four months after her arrest, Crawley told investigators that Stroud didn't want her to have an abortion and even asked her to marry him. He became despondent after she rejected him, and he tried to commit suicide, she said.

Crawley, a former Guilford Metro 911 dispatcher, told police that Stroud would repeatedly call her at work and stare at her in the hallway. She was so fearful of him that she bought a gun but then threw it away because she was afraid to have it around, she said.

The day before Smith was killed, she said, Stroud forced her to drive to Durham, and they returned the following day. On the second trip, she said, he got out at an apartment complex and was gone for several minutes before returning, ordering her to get into the driver's seat of an SUV and hiding in the back.

Crawley told investigators that Stroud had forced her to go places with him before. On the day Smith was killed, she said, he told her he would kill her children if she didn't go with him.

"He said, 'Either your children die, or you die for your children,'" she said in the videotaped interview.

Her fear prevented her from contacting police before her arrest, she said.

”I’d do absolutely anything for them. I’d protect them at any cost. He knew that," she said.

“I don’t know what I did to make him do this to me. I don’t what she did that he thinks was so horrible that he had to kill her. I don’t know. All I know is I didn’t do anything to her,” Crawley told police.

"I didn't know her. I didn't know where she lived. I didn't know anything about her," she said.

After jurors finished watching the tape, Crawley's attorney, Scott Holmes, grilled Shawn Pace, an investigator with the Durham Police Department, about why Stroud was never a suspect in Smith's death.

"Is it fair to say, in your investigation, other than his word he didn’t do it, (that Stroud) did not have a hard alibi that made it impossible for him to have done this?" Holmes asked.

"I cannot (agree) nor disagree,” Pate responded, adding that police never searched Stroud's car or home.



Accused murderer says she was set up

Friday, February 12, 2010

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Testimony continued Friday in the shooting death of Denita Smith - a NC Central student found shot to death outside her apartment in January 2007.

Smith's accused murderer, Shannon Crawley, says Smith's fiancé set her up.

The prosecution tried to establish Friday that Crawley had time to commit the murder, while defense attorneys made it clear she was afraid of the victim's fiancé.

Crawley's former supervisor recalled on the stand how Crawley arrived at work three hours late the day Smith was shot to death.

Crawley, a former Greensboro 911 dispatcher, was soon after determined to be the primary suspect.

She turned to her supervisors for help, blaming the victim's fiancé Jermeir Stroud - a Greensboro police officer.

Stroud has admitted to dating both women at the same time, saying he ended his relationship with Crawley after a terminated pregnancy.

It was a rocky relationship Crawley's former co-worker said she often talked about.

On the stand, he told the jury how he sold Crawley a gun to ease her fears over Stroud or another intruder breaking into her home.

"My encouragement for her to get a gun was not for this specific issue, but she'd been broken into several times at her home that was my encouragement for her," witness Ronald Simpson said.

Simpson also said he taught Crawley how to use the gun, but the defense insisted she was afraid of weapons.

Testimony in the case will continue on Monday.



Trial continues in NCCU student death

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Testimony continued Thursday in the shooting death of a NC Central student named Denita Smith.

Smith's fiancé, a Greensboro police officer, took the stand Thursday admitting that he was having an affair with the accused murderer Shannon Crawley, but he denied that he had killed his fiancé.

Denita Smith was found shot to death outside her apartment in January 2007.

That day, Jermeir Stroud - Smith's fiancé - says he went to work and then home.

He admits embarrassment over dating both women at the same time, but says he's no killer.

Stroud told the jury he was suspicious of Crawley after learning police were looking for someone driving a vehicle similar to her SUV. So he called Durham investigator Jack Cates.

"He said do you have a crazy ex-girlfriend," Stroud said, "Someone who'd want to do something like this? I said, yes."

In an attempt to discredit Stroud, Crawley's attorneys pointed to police notes that suggested that conversation went another way.

"According to his handwritten notes he says Stroud said no to his first question," Cates said. "Then when he asked whether he knew anyone matching the vehicle, he said yes."

For now, the case is focused on the embattled fiancé, a Greensboro police officer who describes his relationship with Crawley as friendship that turned sexual.

Stroud claims Crawley never recovered emotionally from a terminated pregnancy months before the murder.

She accused him of rape, more than a year after Smith's death, another claim he denies.

It's a love triangle that left investigators with some doubts.

"At that particular time we didn't know if he was involved or not, we didn't want to tip our hand," Cates said. "We didn't know his position."

No testimony has linked Crawley to the crime scene.

A maintenance worker recalls hearing what sounded like gun shots and then seeing woman crying hysterically, but failed to identify Crawley. The worker testified to only seeing an unidentified woman inside her car that morning. The defense contends Stroud is the real killer, jumping into his lover's SUV after the shooting and hiding in the back seat.

The trial will continue Friday.



Suspect in NCCU student's death blames fiance

Bond Set for Suspect in NCCU Student's Slaying

February 10, 2010

Durham, N.C. — A Greensboro police officer killed a North Carolina Central University graduate student more than three years ago, the attorney for the woman accused of the crime said Wednesday as her trial began.

Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 28, of Greensboro, is charged with murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, shooting death of Denita Monique Smith.

Smith, 25, was shot in the head at Campus Crossing Apartments in Durham and fell down a stairwell to the sidewalk, where a maintenance man found her body, police said.

Police arrested Crawley, a dispatcher for Guilford Metro 911 in Greensboro, five days later.

Durham County Chief Assistant District Attorney David Saacks said in his opening statement that Crawley had a previous relationship with Jermeir Stroud, a Greensboro police officer engaged to Smith, and that she wouldn't let go.

Crawley drove to Smith's apartment complex the day before the shooting to scout it out and then returned early the next morning, where she ambushed Smith and shot her in the back of the head, Saacks told jurors.

The maintenance man saw Crawley pulling out of the complex parking lot after the shooting and said she was crying, Saacks said.

Defense attorney Scott Holmes put the same scene in a different light during his opening statement. He said Crawley feared for her safety around Stroud, whom he called manipulative and controlling.

Stroud and Crawley drove together to Durham the day before Smith was killed so they could discuss their relationship, Holmes said. The pair returned to the apartment complex the next morning, and Crawley heard Stroud arguing with someone as she sat in the SUV, the attorney told jurors.

After Crawley heard a gunshot, Stroud ran back to the SUV and jumped in the back, Holmes said. He was hiding there when the maintenance man stopped Crawley to ask about the gunshot, Holmes said.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens ruled Wednesday that Crawley's statements to police that she had an abortion before she and Stroud broke up and her claim that he raped her more than a year after Smith's death may be admitted as evidence in the trial.



Woman Arrested in Shooting Death of NCCU Student

By Julia Lewis and Sloane Heffernan -

January 9, 2007

Durham, N.C. — Durham police Tuesday arrested a 911 dispatcher in Greensboro in connection with last week's shooting death of a North Carolina Central University student.

Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 27, was arrested Tuesday evening in the slaying of Denita Monique Smith, 25.

Smith, a graduate student from Charlotte, was shot inside a stairwell of the Campus Crossing Apartments last Thursday morning and then fell down several steps to the sidewalk.

A maintenance worker at the apartment complex found her body at about 10:15 a.m. Police had responded to an earlier call for shots fired at approximately 8:30 a.m., but found nothing at that time.

Police said witnesses saw a woman driving away from the apartment complex in a burgundy Ford Explorer less than two hours before Smith's body was found.

According to Guliford Metro 911 officials, the department hired Crawley in 2000. She was suspended after being named a person of interest on Saturday in Smith's murder, the department said in a written statement issued Tuesday night.

Sources tell WRAL that Crawley was arrested at about 7 p.m. Clad in handcuffs and shackles, she was led into the Durham County Jail late Tuesday evening.

Police have refused to discuss any possible motives, but said that Smith's death did not appear to be a random act of violence.

Detectives spent the last five days interviewing more than a dozen people, including Smith's family members, friends and neighbors.

Investigators also spent several hours Friday interviewing someone they had identified only as a person of interest in the case. It's unknown whether Crawley was the person interviewed.

WRAL first learned on Monday evening that investigators were focusing their attention in Greensboro. It was not immediately clear why because Durham police would not comment.

In response to the shooting, the Durham Police Department will conduct a Project Safe Neighborhoods Community Response on Wednesday. It is a strategy utilized for violent incidents or crimes likely to have a retaliation effect among those involved.

The response consists of a door-to-door canvassing of the neighborhood where the crime occurred and where the victim live.

Smith received a bachelor's degree in English from N.C. Central and had planned to wrap up her thesis this semester. She was engaged to a Greensboro police officer.

Her funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at University Park Baptist Church in Charlotte.

In a written statement, N.C. Central Chancellor James H. Ammons said: "What happened to Denita was unconscionable. She was an outstanding and promising young student whose life has been cut short. The arrest of a suspect will help us to begin the process of healing."



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